When a friend was in town—my longest friend, someone I’ve known since I was eight—she told me she had three things on her Weekend-in-New-York bucket list: a picnic in Central Park, ice cream from the Mister Softee’s ice cream truck, and to see live music.
I said “Great, I can do all three!”
In the city there are a ton of great music venues. You can find anything from Madison Square Garden to a 15-person room with mismatched chairs and a sofa (that was an avant-garde classical music concert, and a story for another day). I narrowed my search to a few classics that would be General Admission and under $20: Mercury Lounge, Rough Trade, Brooklyn Bazaar, and Baby’s All Right.
Now I’m not an expert in all of NYC’s music venues, but one day I would like to be. I settled on Baby’s Alright and took a quick listen to that night’s performers, just to make sure they…well…wouldn’t scare off my friend. You know how sometimes you watch a really funny youtube video and then show it to your mom and only then you realize it has a really dark sense of humor? Sharing something you like with a person right next to you is a bit different than writing about it for people to read. So they got my stamp of approval and we spend the day catching up, snacking, and trekking around the city.
As the sun started to go down we hopped on the train out to Brooklyn, google maps in my hand because, embarrassingly, I had never been to Baby’s Alright. But in my defense, I cut my teeth on the London music scene (more of the Garage than the O2 Forum) and I haven’t gotten around to visiting all the musical hotspots. Note to self: a Julie/Julia-style blog series for NYC music venues?
And I absolutely love small venues. With less space to fill, the atmosphere seems to whisper that anything could happen. There are no screaming fans (the one exception was KYKO at the Omeara), just curious and slightly tipsy music enthusiasts or friends of the bands, and by the end of a good show everyone has fallen in love with the music even if they had only heard it that night. When I’m old and frail I bet I’ll still be going to concerts like that for the thrill and the music, but I’ll probably bring along a stool to sit on (sometimes I wish I could use one of those now).
So let me tell you about the concert:
Three bands: opening was The Architects (and I must apologize because I haven’t been able to find any of their social media, website, or music), Blame Candy second, and Kitten.
With The Architects, think early nineties rock, Janis Joplin but more grunge. Lots of black leather and eyeliner, playing like the room had stopped time or been transported to Vahalla if it were a concert hall. Have you ever heard rock music that sounds seductive? Not sexy or sweaty, but like you’re falling under a spell, you stand transfixed to the spot, and when it stops you’re suddenly snapped out of it, feeling like you’ve fallen asleep for a second.
Next was Blame Candy, who was probably my favorite of the night. Although, when I first saw the drummer emerge during the sound check with the trending leather pants, big hair, and one of those cowboy smocks but a third of the regular size, I was a bit skeptical, thinking “what have I gotten us into?” But oh, how wrong I was. Glitter, classic late-seventies-early-eighties rock’n’roll with big hair and platform heels, Zepplin-esque with a bit of glam like The Darkness, and an enthusiastic but humbling energy. If I knew the music by heart, I would be singing along, dancing, and screaming, but instead I wanted to soak up every minute. Have you ever seen a true guitar solo or drum solo in concert? Both are sort of rock’n’roll cliches but people don’t really use them anymore, but Blame Candy took the nostalgia of the classic rock feel with a modern scene and plenty of infectious energy. Bonus points for light and tasteful choreography (think: head turns, pauses before last-notes, and the like), and feeding off the energy of the crowd. Cheers to giving classic sounds new life.
Lastly, let me tell you about Kitten. Whatever you were previously thinking, throw it out. You need the live experience to truly understand, to get the whole picture. Start out with fog and neon lights. You see shadows of the musicians emerge, and all of a sudden the lead singer appears in a red-and-blue body suit with a soft pink bobbed wig. From the get go she never stops moving, running in place, jumping around on stage, and all the while never losing her breath with a Haley-Williams-meets-Blondie-meets-Save-Ferris voice. Your fave could never.
BUT THEN two songs later she literally snatches her own wig and sheds the body suit for leather pants (a beautiful trend that night), a black bra and a mesh crop top. Maybe that’s where the set shifted for me, seeing a more punk aesthetic compared to a new-age vibe, or maybe the atmosphere really shifted, like a spark set off. From there, the energy could only grow, never peaking until after they left the stage. But in between, everything was alive. Kitten never lost their energy or their sound for a minute. They interacted with each other on stage as well as the audience, and you could tell how much they enjoyed being together in that moment. There were a couple of mashed-up covers (“Rebel Rebel” was a great fit) but the two highlights for me was when the crowd surfing began. It takes guts and confidence for a musician to crowd surf, and it almost looked as if she was walking on water for a few feet. The second was how the lead vocalist introduced the other band members at the end of the night. Each got an intro and their own solo, before she herself climbed into the drummer’s seat and made her own musical introduction with a drum solo.
I commend Kitten, Blame Candy, the Architects, and Baby’s All Right for never faltering, keeping the night young and showing a great set that night. The energy they brought is not only why we go to live music, but why we stay for a good time.